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HIST 2380: The Social and Cultural History of Food in Europe

Research Guide for Professor Valenze's HIST 2380 course (Spring 2024)

About this Guide

Welcome to the research guide for History 2380

 The Social and Cultural History of Food in Europe

   In this guide you'll find...                        
  • Resources to find background information on your topic
  • Places to find books in print and online
  • Databases for locating scholarly and peer reviewed journal articles
  • Databases and other suggestions for locating statistical information about the commodities you have chosen to research
  • Search tips for searching the library catalog and databases
  • Resources for citing your sources and writing

You can email me or book and appointment using the "Schedule Appointment" button in the profile box.

The Research Process

Choosing a topic

There is no correct way to undertake this part of the process, in many ways it can be the most challenging part of any research project and it can look very different for everyone. It's important to remember that we generate ideas in many different ways so we have to be open to where our reading, thinking, and observations might take us. Here are some suggestions as you begin the process: 

  • Think about class readings or discussions that you've found interesting? Are there concepts, ideas, or themes you've always found intriguing? These can be great starting points. Remember that flexibility is key because as you conduct your research you may find that you topice changes a bit. 
  • Start thinking about the question you'd like to ask or explore and as you do this and try to generate important words or phrases related to your topic, but be flexible. Create a list of different keywords and phrases you can use to begin your research. If visualizing helps, you write them down on paper, or use a concept map to organize your thoughts. Try out different combinations of the key terms you've developed
  • Use your key terms to search your topic across databases. Use general academic and subject area specific databases and be sure to try out different combinations of your search terms. 
  • Begin familiarizing yourself with background information about the topic. Reference materials are especially helpful for providing context for your topic.


Finding background information

  • Use web resources like Wikipedia and Google searches to brainstorm and identify additional keywords for your topic
  • For authoritative reference resources (like scholarly encyclopedias) see the Reference Resources page. These resources:
    • Are written by scholars in their fields, so you can trust the information they provide
    • Give you an overview of your topic,  background information, and help define terms you aren't familiar with
    • Contain bibliographies to help you find more information related to your topic
    • Can help you find more keywords, phrases, people and ideas to further your research


Refining your topic

At this stage, use what you've learned during the process of gathering background information to broaden or narrow the focus of your topic and research question.

You should ask yourself the 5 Ws and 1 H, or Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? to help you formulate your research question.

A good rule of thumb: if there is an entire book on your topic, it is too broad for a research paper. On the other hand, if the topic can be discussed in a few paragraphs, then it is too narrow.

Example: "The role of women in the plays of Shakespeare" is too broad because hundreds of books and articles have been written on this topic; "The symbolism of Ariel's costume in the Tempest" is likely too narrow because there are not enough books and articles discussing this specific detail.


You may find that you go through the process of refining your topic more than once.